Picture this: After tough negotiations (and some serious haggling), you're going to France for that gap year you've saved for. Or maybe you're well on your retirement, and you've spent a few years of saving-up your credit card miles for that Asian trip you've always dreamed about.
Whatever the circumstances, it is best to prepare yourself, especially if you're a first-time flyer. Even seasoned jet setters would tell you that preparation is half of the work, that is why we're giving you important tips on how to survive about any airplane situation you may encounter. Let's 'fly' in on the fun, shall we?
1. Passport...check. Ticket...check.
Spontaneous vacations are all the rage. However, there's nothing like the taste of panic when you realize your passport is expiring in less than a month.
Or when you forget all about a trip you were supposed to make. Try to coordinate all of your bookings, expiration dates, and government transactions in your tangible and virtual calendars, so you don't get them all mixed-up.
2. Read about airport and airline regulations beforehand...
A few weeks (or even months) before your travel, you have to know about all the nitty-gritty details, especially when it comes to your airport and airline regulations.
Important things, such as cancellation procedures, possible rebooking, travel insurance, and general protocol, these things might save you more than a buck, especially when something unexpected comes up.
3. ...and be updated about your country's Embassy contact information.
It's better to be well-prepared in case of an emergency. Your consulate could help you in so many ways. This is why you must note their contact details and location. A full list of U.S. Embassy and Consulates, can be found here.
4. A Trip to the Doctor
Before your scheduled trip, it is best to stay on the safe side and arm yourself from different diseases and illnesses. Schedule an appointment with your doctor and update him or her about your travel plans. See if there are any vaccines that you may have to get (Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A/B, Typhoid, Rabies, etc.).
If you have any preexisting conditions that need to be addressed, you have to inform your doctor about your travel and any other certifications and adjustments related to your treatment.
5. Make a List (and check it twice)
Santa ACTUALLY gets it. Generally speaking, it's recommended to sit down and make a list of all your items before they even go near your suitcase. You can do this on your phone, or have a separate, small notebook for this purpose (which could also double as a list for your expenses).
This would ensure that you have all of your essentials with you, you avoid packing too much, and provide a good visual cue when you're hitting the point of 'excess.'
Possible essentials to include are the following:
- Passport, Invitation Letter, and Visa (as needed)
- Departure and Return Flight Tickets (aside from printed copies, try to have back-up digital copies on your phone and cloud)
- Hotel Reservations (printed and digital copies)
- Credit Card and Cash (home and local currency)
- Company I.D.
- Charger and/or Power Bank (10,000 - 20,000 mAh)
- Medications (Maintenance meds, antiemetics for nausea and airsickness, diarrhea meds)
- Pen and a small notebook for important details
- Address and contact details of the hotel you will be staying in
Lastly, try to keep digital, secure copies of the fronts and backs of all credit cards, passports, and I.D.s. Inform your credit card company of your scheduled travel, as they may associate foreign purchases with fraudulent activity and freeze your card.
6. Travel Light
And yes, we mean light. Please don't stuff three bottles of perfume, or your hairdryer and curling iron if you're not even sure you'll use them. Save the hassle for later. We promise, you won't have a great time in those thigh-high boots; back into the closet they go!
7. Pack a Small Bag for Valuables
For your convenience, it's best to have a small travel purse with a sturdy strap where you can keep your passport, ticket, identification cards, and other important belongings with you. It's good to invest in anti-theft bags, which are travel-friendly and lightweight.
Depending on the airline, you can even keep this with you on your seat, and you won't have to put it up on the overhead luggage compartment.
8. Consider Travel Insurance
We all have that one friend who just won't shut up about insuring everything they own. Yes Todd we did know you just saved 15% by switching to Geico, you told us last week.
So what does Todd have that you don't? Peace of mind. Travel insurance is worth looking into. Maybe take some notes and get some quotes before you push through with any travel plans. If your present insurance plan doesn't cover it, it's best to ask your current provider if there's any way to get it for less, or research
a plan that's best for you.
This will safeguard you against lost or stolen luggage, rebooking, canceled flights, and pretty much any untoward inconvenience.
9. How Soon is Too Soon at the Airport?
At least 2 to 3 hours before your flight schedule, you should be at the airport. That's the standard since you have to make time for security checks, immigration questions (especially international flights), and possible inconveniences that may arise.
For flights during peak travel seasons and holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.), you may want to arrive at least 4 hours before to ensure that you've got everything covered. Try to research possible holidays or events that might take place during your travel period.
10. Keep the Gadgets to a Minimum
For the Millennials, this may be a bit difficult to do. Multi-use electronics that take up less space are good for travel. Unless you have some important business to attend to, there's no need to lug your heavy laptop, huge lenses, and tripods around. Your phone is perfectly fine.
11. Apps to the Rescue
Download apps that may come in handy during your travels. Most countries do have Uber or Grab (Asian Countries); some even have local transportation booking counterparts that you may want to use. Subway map apps are also great, especially if you're bent on commuting.
You can also download safety apps, like bSafe or BlueLight, which can notify your friends and loved ones in case you're in a compromising situation. They can contact local assistance for you as needed.
12. Dress Down and Inconspicuously
You may have a signature style or a specific fashion sense, but especially when you're traveling alone, it's best to take the attention off of yourself for your own safety. That means, dress comfortably and appropriately when you're going out. Try to take note of religious practices and general taboos - especially when it comes to dressing in the country you're going to visit.
13. Don't Make it Rain - Stick to your Budget
You can research the cost of living and possible expenses in the area before you make your trip. Before any major purchases and unexpected bookings, you may want to take a step back and think if it is really necessary or if it can add some value to your experience in the country.
Some travelers would tell you that it's good to list all of your expenses EVERY SINGLE DAY, so that you don't go overboard.
14. Check your Luggage and Travel Bags first
A good practice that you can do before your trip is to check your luggage and travel bags for any cracks or damage. This will ensure that your belongings are intact. You also need to have TSA (Transportation Security Administration) - approved locks on your bags, so that airport authorities wouldn't have to cut off your suitcase lock or, worse, rip your bag apart.
15. Relax, and be Flexible about Travel Plans
For a trip to qualify as successful, it must be realistic and flexible enough to accommodate some changes. Don't be too uptight about your schedule - you will set yourself up for frustration and stress. Try to have a contingency plan in case something unexpected comes up, which may include side trips to nearby museums, parks, and restaurants.
And there you have it! With every first time, experience comes an opportunity for growth, self-discovery, and a bit of muscle and manual labor. But know that with every mile that you cross, you're just steps away from new faces, experiences, and sensations. Enjoy, and safe travels!